Your Morning Coffee is at Risk

A world-first global study confirms that global coffee production is at risk from climate change.

If you were walking along Melbourne’s streets, you’d be forgiven for believing that the Melbourne economy rises and falls on the price of coffee beans.* It is worrying, therefore, to read that the projected 2oC of global warming will impact coffee production.

*Not real science or economics

Scenes of Melbourne CBD after coffee prices spike

Source: Flickr user l a n g g i


Change is coming

In 2015, a group of international scientists published the first global study on how Arabica bean production will be affected by climate change. Arabica beans are the most common and sought-after coffee beans worldwide.

The study found that increases in temperature and changes to regular rainfall patterns will negatively impact production in all countries currently producing Arabica beans. The changing climate will decrease yield, increase risk from pest and disease, and reduce the quality of the beans.

Yet climatic changes will not be uniform across the globe, and the impact on coffee production will not be the same everywhere. Rather than ending all production, Arabica coffee bean production will be forced to move to higher elevations.

Sweet, sweet coffee berries

Source: Flickr user Nestle

Most production will need to move to higher elevations where scientists believe growing conditions will be more suitable in the future. But this clearly will not be as easy as moving the farm a little ways up the mountain.

Many countries and regions simply do not have farming land at higher elevations with suitable soil conditions, topography, rainfall or vehicle access for coffee production.

For example, in Central America, the study found that coffee production would have to move to above 800 meters above sea level. Nicaragua and El Salvador do not have suitably high mountains. They will therefore be a lot more severely affected that their neighbours of Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, and Costa Rica.


The less you have, the more it costs

While Arabica production will continue despite climatic changes, the researchers conclude that overall global production will drop.

Brazil is the world’s largest coffee exporter. They currently produce Arabica at low altitudes but have no high altitude regions to relocate production to. Therefore, Brazil is projected to lose 25% of current production.

The decline in production will raise the price of coffee beans. The rising price will quickly flow through to the price of your midday latte from House of Cards or Ho Ho’s.

I Heart Coffee

Source: Flickr user Linh Nguyen


If you love coffee, support those that grow it for you

While I do love and depend on my morning coffee, clearly the most concerning impact will be on the approximately 25 million smallholder coffee farmers.

These farmers and their families depend upon coffee production for their livelihoods. Coffee farmers, as with all farmers, will need the help of governments, NGOs and consumers to transition and diversify into climate smart and resource efficient food (and coffee) production in the future.

Right now you can support coffee farmers by buying Fairtrade Coffee and asking your local cafe if they use Fairtrade Coffee.